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Use of Chlorine in the Food Industry

Chlorine compounds are widely used in the food industry to kill bacteria and disinfect.
Examples include treating pasteurizer cooling water, washing fruit and vegetables and
disinfecting food contact surfaces.
Chlorine is usually combined with inorganic compounds, such as sodium or calcium, to
produce hypochlorites, which are effective disinfectants. Chlorine mixed with sodium is a
liquid bleach1 known as sodium hypochlorite NaOCl. Chlorine mixed with calcium is
usually in granular or tablet form and is called calcium hypochlorite - Ca(OCL)2. Chlorine
may also be available as chlorine dioxide (ClO2). However, hypochlorites are the most
active of the chlorine compounds. Table 1 lists these and other common chlorine
sanitizer compounds.
Table 1. Common chlorine sanitizer compounds
Chemical

Synonyms

sodium hypochlorite ~5% active


chlorine
sodium hypochlorite ~10-15% active
chlorine
calcium hypochlorite

hypochlorous acid, sodium oxychloride,


bleach
hypochlorous acid, sodium oxychloride

sodium dichloroisocyanurate
chlorine dioxide

Dichloro-s-triazine-2,4,6-trione; sodium
salt
chlorine oxide, chlorine peroxide

sodium chlorite

none

hypochlorous acid, calcium oxychloride

Factors affecting chlorine efficacy


Certain factors can affect the sanitizing power of chlorine compounds. They include the
presence of organic material, pH, temperature, concentration, and contact time. When
using chlorine as a sanitizer, note the following:

1. Presence of organic material. Organic material such as food residues


decreases the effect of chlorine. For proper disinfection, use chlorine on cleaned
surfaces only. Make sure you remove all organic material residue including fat
and protein, before you apply chlorine as a sanitizer.

2. The pH of a chlorine solution. The level affects the antimicrobial activity. Use
chlorine solutions with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0 for optimum antimicrobial
activity. At pH values near 4.0, hypochlorite solutions are most effective, but very
unstable. At high pH values, the efficacy of chlorine is reduced. If you are using a
highly alkaline cleaner to remove protein and fat residues, rinse the surfaces
thoroughly before applying chlorine solution because high pH residues will reduce
the chlorine activity.

3. Temperature. Generally, chlorine antimicrobial activity increases with warmer


temperatures. However, at high temperatures, chlorine compounds may release
chlorine gas which is toxic. The potential of corrosion also increases as
temperatures go up.

4. Concentration. Higher concentration of chlorine increases the effectiveness of


killing micro organisms. However, high concentrations of chlorine are not
recommended because they can cause corrosion, explosions, and adversely affect
the health of workers. A chlorine concentration of 50 to 200 parts per million
(ppm) is recommended to disinfect food contact surfaces including utensils,
equipment, and tables.

5. Contact time. The bactericidal activity increases with longer exposure time. If
the chlorine solution you are using does not exceed 200 ppm, no rinsing of the
surface is required. If using a solution stronger than 200 ppm, rinse the surface
with clean water after a few minutes of application. Do not let the chlorine
solution stay in contact with equipment for more than 30 minutes or it could
corrode.

Storage of chlorine
Aqueous chlorine solutions such as commercial household bleaches are not stable. This
means that chlorine may dissipate rapidly, reducing its content and effectiveness. So,
chlorine powders should be used to sanitize in food processing plants, not bottled bleach.

Preparing a chlorine solution


Hypochlorite liquid solutions commonly used in the food industry can be diluted with
water until they reach the right concentration desired.
Example
To prepare 100 litres of a 50 ppm solution from a 12.5 per cent sodium
hypochlorite (NaOCl), the following calculations are needed:
Final chlorine solution volume =
litre = one thousand millilitres

100 litres = 100,000 millilitres (ml), because a

Final chlorine solution concentration desired = 50 ppm


Initial chlorine solution concentration = 12.5% solution = 125,000/1,000,000 which can
also be expressed as 125,000 parts per million (ppm) because 1 ppm = 1 ml in
1,000,000 ml
Initial chlorine solution volume = Z
Initial chlorine
solution
concentration

125,000 ppm

Initial chlorine
solution
volume

Final chlorine
solution
volume

Final chlorine
solution
concentration
desired

100,000 ml

50 ppm

Z
=
40 ml
To prepare 100 litres of a 50 ppm solution of sodium hypochlorite, dilute 40 ml of a
12.5% sodium hypochlorite solution with water.

Monitoring your chlorine solution


Once you prepare your chlorine solution, use a test kit to monitor free available chlorine
and in some cases, total residual chlorine (TRC) concentrations. Free available chlorine
refers to the amount of chlorine available to react with bacteria. TRC is the amount of

chlorine in the water, which includes chlorine available and chlorine bound with organic
materials.
Free and total residual chlorine test kits are commercially available including test strips,
color cubes, titration-based test kits, colorimeters and colour discs.

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Nitrates and Nitrites in Meat Products


Nitrates and nitrites are used widely in the meat industry to cure. They are usually mixed
with meat binders and cure ingredients and are added to dry sausages, semi-dry
sausages, preserved meat and preserved meat by-products such as ham and salami.
They can be
added in the form of sodium and potassium salts (eg: sodium nitrate,
sodium nitrite, potassium nitrate and potassium nitrite).
Use
Nitrates and nitrites are used to:

control the growth of spores


provide cured meat flavour and colour
extend the shelf life of meat products
Control the growth of spores
Nitrates/nitrites control the growth of spores, particularly from Clostridium botulinum.
These spores are a real concern in the food industry, because they can survive normal
heat processing. Under the right conditions, they can produce vegetative cells, which can
create a lethal toxin.
Influence on colour
Nitrites cause a colour reaction in the meat and add an appealing pink colour to cooked
products. Meat products without nitrates/nitrites are brown or gray coloured.
Nitrates undergo a chemical reaction and are converted to nitrites. Then, nitrites react
with the protein of the meat (myoglobin), and are converted to nitrosomyoglobin (bright
red). When cooked, nitrosomyoglobin is converted to nitrosohemochrome (pink
pigment). This bright pink colour is normally associated with cured meat such as
wieners, bologna and ham.
Why are nitrates/nitrites regulated in South Africa?
The use of nitrates or nitrites is restricted because high levels can be hazardous to
humans. Excess nitrates can react with amino acids in proteins during processing and
form carcinogenic nitrosamines. Processors should have their systems checked during
formulation to ensure the right levels are used.

How much nitrate/nitrite can be used?


In South Africa the levels of nitrites/nitrate levels are regulated in terms of Regulation
R965 of 1977, as amended, promulgated in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and
Disinfectants Act, Act 54 of 1972.
How to comply with regulations?
To comply with the regulations regarding the nitrate/nitrite levels in your products, you
need to know the precise concentration of nitrates/nitrites in your recipes. Your supplier
should be able to tell you what they are in your cure mix or meat binder. Use this
information to calculate the amount of nitrates/nitrites in your formulation, based on
your recipe.
You can also test your raw products for the total concentration of nitrates/nitrites at an
external laboratory. To comply with the regulations, the sum of nitrates and nitrites
should not exceed the maximum level
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WHAT IS HACCP?
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point
HACCP is an internationally recognized, science-based, food safety system that is used
to help ensure the manufacture of safe food products. HACCP is designed to prevent,
reduce or eliminate potential biological, chemical and physical food safety hazards,
including
those caused by cross-contamination. During the development of a HACCP system,
potential hazards are identified and control measures are implemented at specific points
in the manufacturing process.
HACCP:
Provides a more systematic approach to ensuring food safety than traditional
inspection procedures
Places more responsibility for ensuring food safety on the food manufacturer than
traditional inspection programs
Is based on science, rather than simply past experience or subjective judgement
Focuses on preventing problems before they occur, rather than trying to detect failures
through end-product testing.
HACCP is internationally recognized as the primary means for enhancing food safety
throughout the food chain, and is increasingly being used around the world. A HACCP
system is the responsibility of the company. The food manufacturer has the most control
over the product and thus can have the greatest impact on the safety of the food
produced. The actual development, implementation and maintenance is up the
manufacturer.
A. The Codex Alimentarius Commission and HACCP
HACCP methodology has been standardized internationally by the Codex Alimentarius
Commission. The information provided by Codex is used around the world in the
development of HACCP programs (e.g., SANS 10330); however, each approach
developed may be somewhat different.

B. The Components of a HACCP System


There are two components of an effective HACCP system:
1. Prerequisite ProgramsDesigned to control hazards related to personnel and the
food manufacturing environment, creating conditions that are favourable to the
production of safe food products.
2. HACCP PlansDesigned to control hazards directly related to the food being
processed or the manufacturing process.
HACCP System = Prerequisite Programs + HACCP Plan(s)
i. Prerequisite Programs
Prerequisite programs are designed to ensure a suitable and safe environment for food
manufacturing that does not present sources of contamination. To control and prevent
hazards within the manufacturing environment:
Appropriate personal practices are managed
Shipping, receiving and storage practices are managed
Equipment and structures are maintained
Water supply safety is maintained
Sanitation and pest control activities are performed
Appropriate employee training is provided
Prerequisite programs encompass universal criteria that must be controlled regardless of
the product being manufactured. However, there may be elements of the prerequisite
programs that focus on characteristics inherent to the product or manufacturing process.
For instance, the sanitation program must include procedures that are specific for the
equipment that is used within the facility. Prerequisite programs are implemented prior
to the HACCP plan(s) because they control a large number of general hazards that then
do not need to be controlled in a HACCP plan, thereby making the system more efficient
and easier to maintain. Prerequisite programs lay the foundation for effective HACCP
plans.
ii. HACCP Plans
A HACCP plan is designed to control hazards directly related to the product, ingredients
or manufacturing process that are not controlled by the prerequisite programs. HACCP
plans are developed through a process of hazard analysis to determine hazards
significant to food safety. Control measures are then put into place to prevent, reduce
or eliminate these hazards. The control measures are monitored for effectiveness. If a
hazard is not adequately controlled (the control measure fails), actions are taken to
correct the failure.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------WHY IMPLEMENT HACCP?


New food production and processing practices, emerging food-borne pathogens, and
changing eating habits and demographics have contributed to a higher awareness of
food-borne illness in recent years. Increasingly, prevention has become the focus.
HACCP systems control food safety hazards through prevention, elimination and
reduction.
To address food safety concerns, market forces are driving HACCP implementation
throughout the food continuum, particularly the processing sector. When a food illness
outbreak occurs, many points in the food continuum suffer, including the retail sector. In
response, many retailers and grocers have begun to insist that their suppliers have
effective food safety systems, including HACCP, implemented in their facilities. This

action drives the adoption of HACCP by many processors to retain their current market
and customer base or, in fact, expand it.
A. Common Benefits of HACCP
Although the adoption of HACCP systems worldwide is due primarily to the added food
safety protection provided to the consumer, a number of other benefits to the food
industry, including your company, can be realized by implementing a successful HACCP
system.
i. Increased Focus and Ownership of Food Safety
Food safety is the responsibility of everyone in the food supply chain. Through the
process of developing and implementing a HACCP system, your companys employees
will become more aware of food safety and their roles in maintaining and contributing to
food safety. This increased awareness leads to increased ownership and pride in the
production of a safe product.
ii. Increased Buyer and Consumer Confidence
There is an increasing trend for buyers to request HACCP from their suppliers. Food
processors who have implemented a HACCP system provide buyers and consumers with
a greater degree of confidence that the facility is producing a safe food product.
iii. Maintaining or Increasing Market Access
Market forces continue to drive food safety awareness and HACCP implementation
throughout the food processing sector. As food safety systems, particularly HACCP,
become more common, market access is limited for processors who do not implement
them. In many cases buyer demands require HACCP implementation to maintain market
share and/or gain access to previously inaccessible markets. HACCP implementation may
also permit re-entry into a market that had been lost. Considering the economic
implications, HACCP implementation may be a necessary cost of business.
iv. Business Liability Protection
Implementation of a HACCP system can provide your facility with some degree of
increased business liability protection and may lead to reduced insurance premiums. This
will be an important factor once the Consumer Protection Bill has been passed by
Parliament
v. Reduced Operational Costs
The process of developing and implementing a HACCP system requires that the entire
manufacturing process be reviewed and analyzed, and written procedures developed.
This process often reveals areas where operational costs can be streamlined. For
example, developing a sanitation program may identify that excessive chemical
concentrations are being used. Reducing chemicals to the correct concentration may
decrease sanitation costs.
vi. Efficient Oversight
Similarly, HACCP implementation can provide your company with ongoing efficient
oversight. It can be cost effective to implement HACCP in spite of the associated costs.
Activities that are performed on a regular basis, such as product and process monitoring,
employee training and review of procedures, allow your company to maintain control
over the facility and product. You may find there are certain areas of the process that
can be made more efficient and productive.
vii. Improved Product Quality and Consistency
The implementation of a HACCP system may indirectly enhance product quality.
Procedures that minimize the presence and growth of pathogenic micro-organisms can
also minimize the presence and growth of spoilage micro-organisms, leading to an

increased product shelf life. In addition, the attention given to standardized procedures
will improve product consistency.
viii. Reduced Wastage
The preventative nature of HACCP allows a company to control costs by minimizing the
amount of product requiring rework or rejection, and focusing resources on areas that
have been identified as critical in the manufacture of a safe food product. You will find
that many problems are addressed before they escalate and before products are
dispatched from your facility; you will not simply be waiting for the results of endproduct testing. With the regular monitoring inherent in a HACCP system, you will
become aware of problems earlier, and your costs of wastage will be reduced.